In Fall 2006, BYU announced a policy that would ban YouTube from campus. BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins explained the decisions in The Daily Herald: “We use the filtering process for two reasons. First to protect students from inappropriate material. The other is because of our limited bandwidth. That bandwidth is used for academic purposes.”
Perhaps in 2006 it was plausible to look at YouTube as a site primarily for entertainment and as a source of inappropriate material. However, in the time that has passed since 2006, it has become clear that YouTube is not merely a site for entertainment or for viewing content, but also a social site that is facilitating an ever-increasing exchange of ideas. To block YouTube now means not merely to block inappropriate entertainment. It also means to remove the ability of faculty and students to be engaged in the production of knowledge that a university education is supposed to further. BYU students are being denied the academic advantages that YouTube offers students elsewhere: to engage in the global flow of ideas and to have lessons that are enriched by the ability to incorporate the most current media.
For a long time, we have been able to police what content people see. We will undoubtedly lose some of this ability if we embrace the benefits that come from social technologies. But the costs of not allowing students access to major new modes of information production seem decidedly greater than the costs of allowing people over 18 to make decisions about what they view. Indeed, on sites like YouTube in which participants themselves are asked to police inappropriate conduct, Mormon youth will be expected to participate in deciding what cultural norms we will stand up to enforce. This responsibility is a far greater moral task than the one presented by older models of censorship in which we were asked to simply not view inappropriate conduct. We need to trust that they are ready to fulfill this task as social sites become places where we live our daily lives.
Note: Many other sites, such as Facebook, hulu, and Google Video are available at BYU.